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ADCET Webinar: Gender diversity and mental illness | Students from LGBTIQ backgrounds

ADCET and the Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability (ATEND) presented this webinar in July 2018. Gender diversity and mental illness. Students from an LGBTIQ background. What support is available?

Why are students from the LGBTQI community disproportionately represented in mental health statistics? What should we be doing as a community to support them?

For this webinar we were joined by four panellists, each representing a different view point from the tertiary setting. The panel, an academic, DA background, tutor and a student, are from diverse sections of the LGBTIQ community and they discussed their experiences and what they would find more inclusive and helpful when studying and working in a tertiary environment.

Panellists were: Wendy Paulusz, Senior Officer Inclusive Development; Eden Dowers, Liaison Officer; Dr Quinn Eades, Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Communications and, Kat Norden, Advocate and Case worker, La Trobe Student Union. 

Q & As

The panellists have answered the questions that we did not have time to answer on the day of the webinar.

What do you think about using gender neutral pronouns and foregoing gender pronouns?

Thank you for your question! As discussed by Quinn oftentimes people who identify as transgender wish to have their binary identification recognised. For example, someone who identifies as a female-to-male transman and has engaged in hormone and surgical transition. Here being gendered as 'they' would not be perceived or experienced as identity affirming. However, when someone has not disclosed their gender identity, use of a gender neutral pronoun would be a more inclusive strategy than assuming one's gender identity based on, for example, name or presentation. - Eden 

Interested in the comments about Queer staff not needing to attend Ally training.  We've started this discussion at the University of Sydney.  Would like to hear more about this?

Thank you for comment. It's great to hear that this is a discussion that is taking shape. As discussed, participation in these platforms often 'costs' participants who identify as LGBTQI in terms of the emotional and intellectual labour they perform in these spaces. Both Quinn, Kat and I are eager to participate in continuing discussion on this topic.- Eden 

If LGBTIQ+ staff aren't expected to do training how do we ensure they are equipped to be good allies to others within the communities who don't share their identity (e.g. SSA folk who are dismissive of or derisive towards bi folk)? This has come up often within fractured communities and is something I find problematic... Also the need for them then to out themselves in order to avoid this requirement....

Thank you for your reflection on this! What Quinn was proposing was for an 'opt in' system of attendance, which would apply to all staff. This is not intended to 'out' someone as a member of this community, as the reasons for doing so do not need to be specified (ie., it could equally relate to social anxiety in group settings). 

While discussion on this matter was highly preliminary, in opting out there could be an online manual/workbook for participants to complete which covers the key legislative requirements regarding inclusion and equity in the given context, further to best practice supports. In completing this manual, ally membership could be granted. 

The LGBTQI community is so heterogeneous, with experiences of biphobia and transphobia unfortunately quite common. There is no ultimate way to safeguard against this in interpersonal exchanges, even through participation in Ally training. However, as discussed in the imagined futures sub-section, through more inclusive practices, allyship and visibility of sexual and gender diverse people, we hope for more empathic environments in which microagressions, discrimination and harassment (even within the LGBTQI community) has no place. - Eden

If training is delivered by cis straight people how can the trainer answer a question authentically?

If the question is about ALLY training, then it would be better for it to be run by people from an LGBTIQ background and expertise in the area (if they are willing to do so). If it would be helpful, have a cis straight person to ask questions, working together to provide a supporting role to replace the stereotype of in-group/outgroup. The same would apply to other minority groups such as indigenous, international, disability. They should be in charge of the session for it to be authentic. However, keep in mind these groups are all heterogeneous and no one person holds the truth for everyone in their group. Wendy

I think I heard that Eden worked as a Disability Adviser for several years. Obviously Eden is a great communicator and would have been a great Disability Adviser.  Did Eden find that students were possibly more open with them. Generally, some students do find staff with disclosed situations (disability, minority groups), that they will be more open with them than other staff. 

Thank you for your question. I feel queer visibility goes a long way in making students feel safe in a large institution such as a university. Particularly when meeting with vulnerable students, where the expectation of the exchange is that they speak about barriers to equitable participation .

When I would meet with students I would state my pronouns, my name and explain my role and how I will be working with them. In doing so, when it came time to writing a learning access plan, I felt comfortable to ask students 'what pronouns do you use?', 'is ___ your preferred name?' I would provide context for such questions, stating that I am writing a form in which they will be referred to in the third person (as in a Learning Access Plan) and that I want to ensure they felt affirmed and safe in this communication. 

I feel that any disability advisor could work in this way. Creating culturally safe spaces through the language we use and through recognising our multiple identities (which include additional critical intersections such as race and ability) is a great first step. Whether a student takes up this discussion thread is for the student to decide. However, it is better to demonstrate an openness to, particularly trans and gender nonconforming identities, than not. - Eden